239 Days in America

A Social Media Documentary following 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 1912

July 28, 1912
Dublin, NH
Storify Feature

A Different Side of America

Beginning today we will publish short editorial pieces each Saturday, which will discuss the important themes that are emerging in our coverage of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journey through America. We’ll also share with you some of the challenges of covering history one hundred years later, and will explore what that history might mean today. We look forward to your input, too. Please post your comments and join the conversation.

IT IS A FUNDAMENTALLY different task to write feature stories about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Dublin, New Hampshire, than it is to reconstruct life in New York, Washington, or Chicago. Only about 500 people lived in Dublin in 1912. Like many summer destinations, the population swelled during the sunny months, but it remained a small country village. While many newspapers covered the goings-on in the big metropolitan areas, and many of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s speeches there were written down, in Dublin there are very few sources to mine.


In Dublin it is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s interactions with the unique characters who lived there in the summer of 1912 that comprise the most interesting aspects of the story. We have met some of these families already in the last two days: the Parsons, the Joseph Lindon Smiths, the Brushes, and the Thayers. They were not national figures. Some possessed extreme wealth; others were artists with compelling personal histories.

During our research for these three weeks in Dublin we were surprised by how many currents of thought, emblematic of the times, reached into this tiny village. The artists here, whom we will meet, did not merely paint beautiful images or write beautiful sentences. They constructed a view of human nature that we may consider to be controversial or retrograde today, but that wrestled with the outlooks of the age, whether Eugenics, Orientalism, Positivism, or Late Transcendentalism. These viewpoints were central to the conversations ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encountered among intelligent people in 1912. As we shall see in the days to come, they reveal a different side of America.


  • Loiemead

    Looking forward to reading about the different side of America.

  • Esther Bradley-DeTally

    i love your writing!

  • Karen

    Now things are getting really interesting:) However, I’ ve loved every day of this journey. It has inspired me at feast, LSA meetings, and teaching. Thanks so much for your efforts and service.

  • Anne Perry

    One of the parts of the Dublin story I really like involves Howard Colby Ives, a Unitarian minister with a congregation in NJ who was like a groupie–showing up at so many of the places Abdu’l-Baha visited.  In Dublin, he finally felt that his questions were answered and he was at peace. He also has an excellent description of Abdu’l-Baha speaking at the church there–part of the wonderful literary legacy of the visit. I hope you’ll touch on his story!  Dublin was the place where Abdu’l-Baha spent the most number of consecutive days–23–though of course New York wins hands down with the most number of days in general.  In Dublin that great portrait of Abdu’l-Baha was taken with the leaves behind him–and a smile on his face.  There are several different shots–one with an upturned hand. It seemed he could really relax there. . . . And then, Green Acre is coming up! 

  • David Carlson

    Dublin, NH in 1912 was not that different than the small communities where my wife and  I are active in Northeast, MN.  Nearby Finland had a communist coop and deep mud for roads in 1912.  It is in business today and a community hub, but no longer communist.  Silver Bay, Finland, Little Marais, Schroeder, Lutsen, Grand Marais – all have that mix of artists, activists, conservatives, liberals, Christians, and various nature-based believers.  Infrastructure has improved.  There were no roads along the North Shore of Lake Superior until 1927.  The main international Highway 61 in front of our house is getting its first makeover in sixty years.  We will have high speed fiber optics communications available to every home and business, even in the remote wilderness, by the end of 2013.  It is easy to have these conversations, online and in person, but no indication of interest in the core activities of the Baha’i Plan.